I Was Passed Over For a Job Because I’m a Virgo: Astrology, Pseudoscience and Fashion

“Why can people become fashion designers overnight but not architects?” asked Hussein Chalayan in our interview last week (to be published in full next week).  Because our industry has been cheapened and the discourse around it is not serious, was his explanation – one which I fully accept.  An article I read in the Evening Standard’s “ES Magazine” last night proved that point, and then some.  Fashion has sold itself short by celebrating ‘overnight’ celebrity designers and buying into (pun intended) pseudoscience.

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The ES article written by Stephanie Theobald entitled “Signs of the Times” reported on fashion’s apparently growing obsession with the zodiac and astrology.  Not astronomy, astrology.  I have nothing against people choosing to indulge in fantasy for fun, but when it is used as a tool to define groups of people and put them in shopping categories according to star sign-based ‘personality traits’ that’s when I get incensed.  Not only because they’re wrong about the traits and personal style (astrology is completely made up and is not based on any proven science) but because it further cheapens the fashion industry, especially with the bizarre suggestion that fashion designers’ work is being informed or driven by astrology and star signs.

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Selfridges’ Christmas windows represent the twelve signs of the zodiac and their christmas shopping offer extends to selections based on star signs.

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12105717_10153237753315678_6968959552349349389_nSelfridges Christmas windows in the theme of the zodiac

Cue my disbelief and horror, especially on seeing the Virgo selection, which is particularly bland and couldn’t be further from my personal style.  No doubt it’s a successful marketing strategy (and the windows look spectacular) but the zodiac being considered anything other than fantasy grates.

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The “Virgo Edit”

Notions of alchemy and recent claims that textiles and leather garments can react to brain waves are similarly fantastical and do a disservice both to science as a discipline and fashion’s strides to work with and integrate real and believable technology into design.  Enough of the gimmicks.

A strange and frankly bizarre situation arose recently when during a job interview, the interviewer – a design director of a well-known mid-level fashion brand – asked me three questions about my star sign.  He actually opened the interview by suggesting that it must have been difficult for me working with a well-known virgo designer at a previous consultancy job and asked how I managed the working relationship on that basis.  I explained that this designer had not worked there during this period, but he proceeded to ask two more star sign-related questions.  He suggested I must be a very determined person (his body language suggested difficult) with strict attention to detail (his body language this time suggesting obsessive).  Suffice to say, the feedback from my agent was that the interviewer felt that he didn’t have a connection with me right from the off.  Wait, was this a relationship proposal or a job interview based on the professional assessment of my skills and aptitude?  As I was fully qualified (hence being invited for the interview in the first place) I have deduced my star sign was at least partly my downfall.   After I hung up the call from my agent on hearing this feedback I thought to myself, “only in fashion would this happen”.  Would an architect be judged based on their star sign?  Would architects be categorised according to their star sign and judgements made about their character on such a flimsy basis? Doubtful.

What is the difference between Astrology and Astronomy? Broadly speaking, Astrology is a pseudoscience based on the search for human meaning in the sky.  Astronomy is the scientific study of the sun, moon and stars, which means experiments are conducted based on hypotheses and then theories and if proven they are published.  These proven theories are tested and the experiments recreated by other scientists in the field, meaning that the scientific community verify the proof and then do more experiments based upon that proof to expand our understanding of the universe.  The key difference here is rigorous academic study and proof.  Up until the 17th century astrology was studied and contributed to the development of astronomy, but scientific discoveries made after the 17th century proved that astrology’s notions of the sky having a magical effect on earth and human beings were false and therefore astronomy’s academic study ceased.

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MoonGownAna Gonzalez’s Astronomy-inspired gown

If your Christmas present is from Selfridges and seems like an odd choice made arbitrarily, it’s probably because it was chosen according to your star sign, not you.  Thank goodness for refunds.

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McQueen and a Bee Named Beyoncé

Bees have been featuring greatly in my life lately. From blogpost one featuring Bastian Broecker’s robot swarm algorithms based on the behaviour of bees, to a wonderful gift of bee pollen and propolis-laden honey from Pablo Villasenin of Toca honey in Galicia, which threw me back into rude health after a hectic time at London Fashion Week, to a very special Pearly Queen beekeeping session this morning at Stepney City Farm in East London. It was special because I learnt more about how bees communicate via a waggle dance that is fundamentally based on physics and also managed to spot the Queen Bee amongst a hive of around 8,000 bees. Well, she is called Beyoncé so it’s not surprising she was dominating the crowd and making her presence felt. I also got to wear a Beekeeping suit (I am an ardent onesie fan – usually of the pilot suit variety) so stylistically, I felt right at home.

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The Queen bee rules the hive for her lifetime of (up to five years), long outliving the worker bees (other female bees) and drones (male bees) whose lifespan is around 6 weeks. The Queen bee mates once, one mile in the air about the hive (mile high club, anyone?) with up to 20 drones. She stores the semen in her bountiful “hips” for her lifetime, fertilising her eggs according to how/when she wishes to populate the hive. She can lay up to 2000 fertilised eggs per day. Interestingly, John from Pearly Queen tells us that there are a group of French bees located near an M&M factory in Alsace have been making coloured honey after visiting waste sites containing the coloured shells. M&M flavoured honey, anyone?

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The fascinating bee behaviour and the protective suits, mesh hats and long gloves got me thinking about beekeeping-inspired fashion. My research led me to Alexander McQueen SS13 and Jean Paul Gaultier’s SS15 collections.

Understanding the powerful pheromone-driven sexuality of the Queen bee and devastating and sudden demise of all drones who mate with her, the premise for Sarah Burton’s dark sexually charged bee-inspired SS13 collection for Alexander McQueen is clear and potent.  The collection featured a metamorphosing hexagonal digital backdrop, honeycomb jacquards and tortoiseshell accessories and cage-like bodices with ornamental bees, reminding me of the wooden frames of the hive I saw today and adding a rich, glossy, amber quality like the nectar and pollen inside the honeycomb.

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Images: Style.com

If I was developing a collection inspired by beekeeping I’d consider the corruption of honey by artificial colours from the M&M factory and take it to a more techno place. I’d draw influence from beekeeping suits and all-over protective clothing including NASA space suits, as well as functional fastenings, including zips. I’m also a fan of the gauzey drapery around the neck and in the mesh of vintage beekeeping attire. I’d also develop knitted structures to mimic hexagonal shapes and create a honeycomb dimension. Here are my beekeeping/spacesuit/functional outerwear mood boards.mood board 1

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Mood board credits: Givenchy Haute Couture, Toogood Outwear, Noemi Anna Tina Ceresola, Nasa Space Suits.

Header Image: Raquel Zimmerman by David Sims. 

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